By David Gold

Mark Anthony_Barriga_in_actionJanuary 12 - The Philippines, the world's 12th most populous country with a population of 94 million, may be represented by just six athletes at London 2012 which would make it much harder for them to end their search for their first-ever Olympic gold medal.

The Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) is funding the training and participation of its athletes and is not convinced that they can compete effectively in London.

Only one competitor, boxer Mark Anthony Barriga (pictured), has so far qualified for London, whilst several others across sports including taekwondo, fencing and sailing are bidding to make it to the Games,

Manny Lopez, the vice-president of the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) who is due to be Chef de Mission of the team at London 2012, said that they would have a tough task to convince the PSC of their worth.

"I think those with good relations with their [international federations] have a good chance," he said.

"If [they don't make the grade], we could be sending the smallest number of athletes to the Olympics."

It would be the lowest total of athletes they have sent to the Olympics since Amsterdam in 1928, when they were represented by just four competitors, and 20 less than competed the last time London held the Games, in 1948.

The country made its Olympic debut at Paris in 1924, becoming the first Southeast Asia country to be represented at the Games.

They won their first medal four years later in Amsterdam when swimmer Teófilo Yldefonso claimed a bronze in the 400 metres breaststroke.

He also won a bronze in the 200m breaststroke in Los Angeles four years later as the Philippines claimed three medals.

But since then they have won only a further five medals, including a silver in the men's featherweight boxing thanks to Anthony Villanueva at Tokyo in 1964.

Their last medal came at Atlanta in 1996 another boxer, Mansueto Velasco, took silver in the men's light flyweight.

He was the younger brother of Roel Velasco, winner of the Olympic bronze in the 1992 Summer Olympics, who was also a light-flyweight.

Just 15 Philippine athletes went to Beijing for the 2008 Olympic Games to compete across eight sports.

But none made any impression.

The most competitors the Philippine have sent to a Games was at Munich in 1972 when 53 athletes competed in 11 sports.

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